Children: Fitting In vs Standing Out

Fitting in vs Standing Out.jpeg

There is a statement I've heard frequently over the years in many Christian circles: "We are in the world but not of the world!" It is derived from Jesus' high priestly prayer to the Father in John 17:

"They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world...As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world." (17:16, 18)

This statement will always be helpful for followers of Jesus because we live in the tension of a fallen world and a glorious eternity and God desires for us to be faithful ambassadors and stewards of the good news while we are on this earth.

Sadly, it seems as though the modern westernized Christian parent has taken a few too many licentious liberties with this whole bit of being "in the world" and as a result, we are raising little cultural carbon copies of the world's version of a child. We have become bent on keeping-up-with-the-Jones's rather than fighting against the "Jones's" by teaching our kids what it looks like to say, as the Apostle Paul stated (the Paul who probably was beheaded by Nero in 66AD): "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is my gain!" (Phil. 1:21)

Whether through entertainment (i.e. pop culture, music, television, movies, and the internet), multi-media (i.e. phones, tablets, and all the latest gadgets), or extracurricular activities (i.e. youth sports and after school programs), we have overwhelmingly decided as parents that we would rather our kids blend in, to mirror the status quo, rather than stick out - not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of being like Christ so that others may know Christ!

A recent statement made by author and speaker Jen Wilkin helped to get to the bottom of this issue when she said something to the effect of this: As parents who love Jesus, we need to trade the COMFORT of our children fitting in for the CALLING of them standing out.

Why do we choose to blend our children into culture rather than have them stick out? Because it's too risky and costly to do otherwise. After all, our children are already fragile and vulnerable, right? Why would we want to potentially expose them even more by teaching them to stand out? This thought is scary. So we instead choose comfort, convenience, and ease.

When we do this, we forget who our children are as followers of Jesus. According to Jesus, they (and we) are salt, light, cities on hills, and lamps in rooms (see Matthew 5:13-16). They are not garden variety needles in haystacks, fish in great big oceans, minions in a crowd of minions, or grains of sand on a beach.

By (spiritual) nature, they are designed to stand out. If you are not convinced at this point, consider the imagery used by the Psalmist in Psalm 127: "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth
." Arrows are designed to be felt by whatever their target is. Our goal isn't to reproduce and subsequently send out safe children in a safe world. Rather, our goal is to (by the grace of God) forge and refine and reproduce razor-sharp kids who know how to love Jesus and love their world well and to send them out to make huge dents in it.

Why should we want our children to stand out rather than fit in? Jesus answers this in Matthew 5:16: "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

The world needs the hope of Jesus and our kids can and will bring that hope to the world!